Archives For Life, etc…


Dan Baker —  January 18, 2016

Earlier I wrote about my need to re-think the New Year’s Resolution thing.

Today I want to explain a little more about what I meant by Reduce and Reboot.

The other day I was calculating the effort it would require to move to a new house, and instantly I felt sick just thinking about all the “stuff” I have up in the attic… and in the spare bedroom… and in the shed behind the house… and the closet under the carport.

Almost all of it is “stuff” I’ve accumulated over the years, most of which has been quietly collecting dust.

In order to move to a new house, I have to pack up all that “stuff” and physically move it across town. The thought of doing that discourages me from even starting.

This “stuff” has become an obstacle to me moving forward; it’s dead weight anchoring me where I’m at.

What I need to do is purge.

Did you know our brains have limited resources to work with? It’s true! They’ve done studies. There are only so many things your brain can cope with before it becomes overwhelmed.

I’ve been working to develop my filmmaking career over the last 10 years, and just like my house, I’ve acquired a psyche-load of useless and unhelpful clutter in the form of ideas, obligations, and projects that I feel compelled to work on.

Note I said “work on” not “finish.” The sort of busyness I described in my previous post demands work, not results.

Step Two of Moving Forward is to Reduce the clutter that’s anchoring us in our rut.

Reducing may look different to you than it does to me, but here’s my process:

I took stock of my long-term goal (to support my family by directing feature films), and anything that didn’t take me closer to that goal got the axe.

So far I’ve:

  • Sold lighting equipment I no longer use, freeing up storage space and capital for things I need.
  • Bowed out of projects where my time and effort weren’t valued.
  • Stopped hosting websites for friends. I’m generally happy to do this, but looking forward I realized that once my film is funded I won’t have time to maintain a dozen websites.
  • Gave away or deleted websites and social media accounts that I wasn’t using anymore.
  • Backburnered a whole bunch of projects that are ‘cool,’ but didn’t really serve any immediate purpose.

Over the next couple of week I’m going to continue purging, the goal being to strip myself down to a point where I’m agile and free to move again. If you’re following along, shoot me a message and let me know what you’re letting go of.

And stay tuned for…the Reboot.

New Year. No Resolutions.

Dan Baker —  January 1, 2016

Eighteen and a half hours of my 2016 have already slipped by.

Last year I hung a dry erase board next to my front door so I would see it every time I left my house. I filled that dry erase board with a glut of to-dos and goals. At first it charged me with electricity, but it was soon forgotten (or perhaps, ignored).

As the year dragged on it began to fill me with a sense of dread, as if it were the Ghost of New Years Future, come to testify that I was doomed to tread water until my dying breath.

I certainly spent 2015 treading water.

I turned 35 this past year. I’m nearly 40, and I’ve yet to direct a feature film, or even a short film that I’m not entirely embarrassed of. I try to keep that quiet despair to myself, but we all walk through life with secret dread hanging around our necks, right?

We use busyness as a security blanket. It makes us feel important and useful. But the more we do, the less we accomplish. The less we accomplish, the less important and useful we feel, the more inclined we are to seek busyness, etc…

It’s a vicious circle, and circles don’t move you forward; you just keep going around and around and around.

It’s addiction.

Step One of Moving Forward is to admit we are not in control, and that our lives aren’t sustainable.

I’ve decided not to set a resolution this year. Instead, I want to set a philosophy; a new rubric to guide my decision-making process.

This year I’m choosing to Reduce and Reboot. What will that look like? Stick around for a short series of blog posts (and if time allows, videos) as I explore and apply this idea.

And If you’re like me, if you’re tired of treading water, don’t just observe, join me.

More to come.

Memphis vs. The Durian

Dan Baker —  August 16, 2013

It’s illegal to carry on public transportation in some Asian countries. It smells like something died. Its taste is often described as a cross between rotten mangoes, putrid onions, garlic, and windex. It’s the one food that defeated Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern.

It’s also a cherished delicacy with aphrodisiac properties.

Yes! I’m talking about the infamous durian. And we took one to downtown Memphis, Tennessee to see who was brave enough to try it.

Hilarity ensues:

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Great things come in small packages, right? That’s what our culture is certainly telling us. Attention spans are getting smaller. And our writing reflects that. Nobody has time to read an entire paragraph! Give it to me in one line.

It’s true in writing and it’s true in life. There is so much noise going on around us. So many distractions to take away from what’s important.

It just so happens that this is also the mysterious and horrifying world of the logline. Any unnecessary words will distract from what’s important about the story. A badly written logline could sink a movie before it even gets made. And a life with too much clutter can take away from what’s truly important to you.

Thus begins my logline/life comparison…

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A few days ago my good friend Avra and I were talking about our love/hate relationship with the short stories of Flannery O’Connor. If you fancy yourself a writer, they’re the kind of stories you inexplicably love, but – in Avara’s words – leave you “very jealous…and a little insecure.”

What fascinates me is these stories quickly, often within the first sentence, put a tight knot in my gut, one that lingers long after I’ve put the book down. How does O’Connor do that? What magic does she breath into her words that twists my tummy ’round sideways?

To get some perspective, I thought it might be fun to examine the first sentences of some of my favorite O’Connor stories. Lets see what we can find.

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I love behind the scenes information about films as much (if not more sometimes) as the films themselves. And I always wonder about what the writer, director, etc. were thinking and feeling at certain points during the filmmaking process.

In the behind the scenes videos or written interviews recorded after the initial experience, they are always able to describe it, but it’s always a reflection on something that has already passed. I find myself wishing that I could journey through that experience with them and learn from those challenging times they are talking about.

So my purpose with this blog is to share what I’m working on and what I’m learning from it.

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Poopie, poopie, poopie.

The social marketing peeps say you shouldn’t blog unless you have something to say. And, well, I don’t have anything to say. Unfortunately for me, we at Timid Monster have a bit of a self-imposed quota: two posts a month, each. We do it because we’re supposed to be building a community around our filmmaking, but our filmmaking at this point mostly consists of long, meandering emails back and forth as we debate what we should write about on the blog.

I know…riveting, right?

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I recently saw Trance, a thriller about hypnotherapy, and a quote really stuck out to me. One of the characters said that throughout life we spend a certain amount of time and energy constantly trying to remember ourselves. It was something to that effect. I’m sure I’m butchering it a little. But it struck me because it wasn’t the typical “always remember who you are” line. It was about how people can literally forget themselves.

It makes sense. We go through so many changes. The world spins around us at such a fast pace it’s hard to keep up sometimes. Inevitably, people change. It has to happen and it’s a good thing for the most part. Forgetting yourself is not so desirable.

What do you do when you wake up one morning and realize that you are so far off course from the person you once were? What do you do if you’ve forgotten that person entirely?

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My husband put together a wonderful blog called Video Games and Marriage. You should go read it. The context will make everything I’m about to say a little funnier.

He mentioned in that post that I had started playing Portal with him. True. And it became a gateway drug.
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I used to read books. I used to draw and paint. Every once in awhile, I even went outside. But that was when I didn’t have a laptop. And internet. No matter what I say or do, my time in front of a computer screen takes up no less than 5 minutes and often exceeds hours. It’s not healthy, as my growing rear-end can attest. 

Thankfully, I’ve found a number of “healthy reasons” to justify parking my behind at my desk. Educating myself on the intricacies of steampunk, the second industrial revolution, air ships, and the narcissistic personality disorder. Plumbing the depths of a sea of artists and their work. Watching Felicia Day try to practice parkour.

…yeah. That last one isn’t as “educational” as the rest, but it’s entertaining as all get out.
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